By Jake Barnett
WWE Smackdown on USA Network
Aired live from Cleveland, Ohio at Quicken Loans Arena
A video package covered events from last week’s show that led to AJ Styles vs. Kevin Owens and John Cena vs. Shinsuke Nakamura for this week’s show. The winner of Shinsuke Nakamura and John Cena’s match will face Jinder Mahal for the WWE Championship at Summerslam. Tom Phillips was joined by JBL and Byron Saxton on commentary. AJ Styles music opened the show and headed to the ring. He was followed by Kevin Owens, so the US Championship Match will open the show. Formal ring announcements were made prior to the match.
1. Kevin Owens vs. AJ Styles: Owens grabbed a headlock and grounded Styles first thing. AJ broke free, but Owens hit a shoulder block and grabbed another headlock. Owens didn’t waste anytime, getting fired up and knocking AJ to the floor. He then rolled out and hit a runnign lariat on the outside and screamed at Styles that it was his title…[c]
Owens covered Styles after a boot to the face and covered for a two count. Styles fired back with a dropkick and collected himself before resuming the office. He tossed Owens down with a snap mare and then kicked him in the spine. Styles then hit a running knee drop, and a suplex a moment later, but only got a one count. He connected with a haymaker and then stomped Owens in the corner. He then setup for a Phenomenal Forearm, but Owens realized it and rolled out to the floor. Styles leaped over the ropes and hit a forearm on the outside, but couldn’t capitalize on it. Owens recovered and threw Owens into the barricade, and followed up with a Cannonball…[c]
Styles hit a running forearm on a seated Owens and got fired up. He hit another running forearm in the corner, and an ushigoroshi for a near fall. Styles setup for a phenomenal forearm again, but Owens moved and hit a superkick for a close near fall. Owens threw Owens into the corner for a pop up powerbomb, but Styles held the ropes and rolled up Owens for a Calf Crusher. Owens hit a headbutt to break free. Owens picked up Styles for a package slam, but Styles broke free. Styles went for a Styles Clash, but Owens shoved out of it.
Styles was able to apply a Calf Crusher again, but Owens reached the ropes. Owens hit a series of kicks to break free of Styles, and took a wild swing that supposedly hit the ref but wasn’t even close. Owens hit another kick and sent Styles into the ropes for a pop up Powerbomb, but Styles reversed into a roll up and the ref counted the pin even though Owens appeared to have a shoulder up. The ref was holding his eye so the finish was that he couldn’t see the pinfall accurately. A replay confirmed he had a shoulder up basically the entire time.
AJ Styles defeated Kevin Owens at 21:33
The commentary team talked about the finish. In the back, Daniel Bryan and Kevin Owens were talking to Mike Chioda about his bad call. He couldn’t see as an official checked on him and he was unable to open his eye. Owens was fuming as he walked up. He shoved Chioda down and told Shane and Daniel Bryan that this whole thing was crap. Shane offered to give him a rematch, but he demanded a ref and that didn’t get blown over by a gust of wind. Bryan stepped in and told Owens that Shane would be his ref. At first Owens objected, but Shane said if he didn’t like it he didn’t have to take the match. Owens eventually accepted and stormed off knocking over tables and equipment.
My Take: A solid match with a weak finish. They worked a nice pace and worked in their signature spots creatively, but the finish felt like a cop out to continue a feud that really should have ended tonight. Owens and Styles hasn’t really been hot enough to justify an extension to Summerslam, and adding Shane to the mix just means we’re even less likely to come away from their Summerslam match feeling like anything was resolved. Hopefully Owens puts his hands on Shane before the show and the match becomes between those two, because Styles needs a new opponent at this point.
Video was shown of The Usos dragging New Day from last week. We got what sounded like a New Day entrance at first, but it was The Usos clowning on them again. They asked the crowd if they were expecting some grown men talking about popsicles. They welcomed everyone to the Uso penitentiary. They said that hanging around Ice Cream Carts and Cereal is about as cool as blowing your own Trombone. They said The Usos can keep their Unicorns, Cereal, and New Day socks, but they would take their titles and their catchphrase, because Uso Rocks.
We got a Twin Peaks themes Fashion Files with some references to a damn fine cup of coffee and David Lynch references on their cork board. Things got weird when a backwards speaking Fandango in a red shirt, and The Ascension pouring syrup on a log like the Black Lodge on Twin Peaks. Breeze snapped out of it and demanded no more metaphors as he looked at Fandano’s missing poster on his board. Sami Zayn made his entrance in the arena…[c]
My Take: As a fan of Twin Peaks, some of the references gave me a chuckle, but the overall story in play here is still not grabbing my interest. It really just seems like an excuse to do more silly skits with vaguely entertaining pop culture references. The Usos promo was very good. They continue to impress me in their heel roles, and they regularly show more personality than the majority of the roster.
Aiden English sang his way to the ring, proclaiming himself the Rembrant of Rage and the Drama King. He also managed to rhyme pain with Sami Zayn, which got a mild boo. He finished by singing WWE very slowly, which got the crowd to shit on him. Seemed like a go away type of reaction, though.
2. Aiden English vs. Sami Zayn: English taunted Zayn and hit a shoulder block to start the match, and then applied an arm twist. Sami fired back with a set of arm drags and applied an arm lock. English rolled up Sami and got a random victory.
Aiden English defeated Sami Zayn at 2:11
After the match, Mike and Maria walked out and said they loved each other, and they loved that he lost. Becky and Naomi were shown headed to the ring backstage…[c]
My Take: Um, ok? WWE has a lot of work to do with this feud. Neither English or The Kanellis’s feel like a threat at this point, and no one really reacts strongly to either of them. Sami is much better in an underdog role, and they couldn’t be farther from that here.
Natalya and Carmella were already in the ring. Becky Lynch then made her entrance, followed by Smackdown Women’s Champion Naomi.
3. Naomi and Becky Lynch vs. Natalya and Carmella: Becky and Nattie started with some chain wrestling. Nattie retreated to the ropes to break a hold. Becky hit an arm drag and jumped away from an attack in the corner. She then grabbed a headlock and dragged Natalya over to Naomi, who hit a Sunset Flip over the ropes, followed by a leg drop for a two count. Natalya retreated and tagged in Carmella, who was outclassed immediately. Naomi hit a kick and a fireman’s carry drop.
Natalya offered a distraction, which gave Carmella an opening to toss Naomi down by the hair. Carmella dragged Naomi over to Natalya, who tagged in. Naomi attempted a leap over Nattie to tag out to Becky, but Nattie hit a spinebuster and sent Becky off the apron. Nattie applied the sharpshooter, but Naomi reached the ropes after a struggle. Carmella tagged herself in to Nattie’s dismay, and applied the Code of Silence. Naomi reversed out of it and applied her neck crank, and Becky took out Nattie with a suplex, which secured the tap out victory.
Becky Lynch and Naomi defeated Natalya and Carmella at 5:34
Backstage, Renee Young stood by while Jinder Mahal awkwardly stared at cue cards. He said that he will be in a luxury box for the supposed dream match later tonight, to watch the man whose dreams he will crush at Summerslam. He then said that no one can dethrone the modern day Maharaja, and walked off. Rusev vs. Chad Gable is next…[c]
My Take: Rusev and Chad Gable could turn some heads here if they put in a big effort. Jinder Mahal is a sleepy promo, and they aren’t doing him any favors with the repetitive material. His awkward staring off camera, at neither the Singh Brothers or Renee Young, was pretty awful. The Women put on a quality performance in their match, but it felt like a maintenance segment rather than an attempt at adding any depth to the feud. Like they wanted you to know they hadn’t forgotten about it.
Rusev made his entrance, followed by Chad Gable.
4. Chad Gable vs. Rusev: Gable grabbed a waist lock, but Rusev grabbed the ropes to break it up. Gabe then went for a single leg takedown, but Rusev tossed him out to the floor. He got right back up and into the ring and finally took Rusev down with a waist lock. Rusev managed to get to his feet and turn the momentum with a knee and a suplex…[c]
Gabe hit a trio of impressive suplexes during the break. Gable avoided a charging Rusev, who hit the post in the corner. Gable hit a beautiful moonsault and covered for a near fall. Gable taunted Rusev to get back to his feet, and went for a rolling German, but Rusev blocked it and hit a kick that got a near fall. Rusev called for the Accolade, but Gable slipped out and applied an ankle lock. Rusev sold tapping out, but kicked Gable away and out to the floor. He caught him again with a kick coming back in, and applied the Accolade for the win.
Rusev defeated Chad Gable at 8:32
After the bell, Rusev grabbed a mic and said ever since he came to Smackdown he was promised competition, so they gave him Cena. He may have waved his flag around, but he didn’t beat him, because nobody beats Rusev. Rusev udrya, Rusev machka, you know the deal. He demanded an opponent for Summerslam, and Randy Orton came out and stalked Rusev around the ring. Eventually, he grabbed a microphone and said if he was Rusev, he wouldn’t want him to get in the ring either. Orton got in the ring and told Rusev he’s never beaten him, and he’s not afraid of him. If he wants an opponent for Summerslam, look no further.
Rusev chuckled and yelled at Orton in Bulgarian before taking a swing and getting put down with an RKO. Nakamura and Cena is next…[c]
My Take: I enjoyed Gable and Rusev quite a bit. They didn’t make the entire match about the size discrepancy, but still managed to show that it was a problem that Gable had to overcome. He came up short, but still looked like there were moments that he could have put Rusev away had he gotten a break. Orton and Rusev doesn’t thrill me, as I don’t think they are going to book Rusev strongly, and I would have preferred Orton to simply go away for a while. Rusev is too good to be the guy to try and rehabilitate Orton’s tired character.
Orton and Rusev was made official for Summerslam. Footage was shown of the Kevin Owens and AJ Styles SNAFU from earlier that resulted in AJ vs. Owens being booked for Summerslam with Shane as the referee. John Cena made his entrance in the arena, followed by Shinsuke Nakamura…[c]
5. Shinsuke Nakamura vs. John Cena: Nakamura smiled at Cena. He went to tie up, and Cena dodged him. Nakamura rubbed his eyes after Cena did his you can’t see me pose. Nakamura backed him up into the corner, and the ref separated them. He then placed his fingers over his eyes miming glasses, to let Cena know he is actually visible to other human beings. Nakamura caught himself on the ropes and taunted Cena, who charged in and ate a step up enziguri. He then did some good vibrations in the corner. He then tried it again in a different corner and Cena popped up and hit a slam and covered for a near fall…[c]
Nakamura hit a knee to the ribs and a wheel kick that dropped Cena. He followed up with several kicks to the chest and a running elbow in the corner. He placed Cena on the top rope and hit a knee to the ribs for a near fall. Nakamura setup for a suplex, but Cena blocked it and hit the moves of doom setup. He went for a five knuckle shuffle, but Nakamura pulled him down into position for an arm bar. He wasn’t able to break Cena’s Arm Free, so he repositioned into a triangle. Cena picked him up for a suplex, but Nakamura reversed into a facebuster. He then backed into the corner and called for Kinsasha, but Cena hit a drop toe hold and applied an STF.
Nakamura reversed the STF into a Cross Armbreaker, but Cena rolled him up and got a two count. He then turned Nakamura inside out with a lariat. They both were laid out, but Nak got to his feet first and hit a running knee to a seated Cena. He set up for Kinsasha again, but Cena avoided it and hit an AA for a near fall. He went for a second one, but Nak reversed into a Guillotine. Cena repositioned him and hit a second AA, and rolled through for a third. Nakamura slipped out and hit a suplex that dropped Cena directly on his head. That was ugly. He then followed up with Kinsasha for the victory.
Shinsuke Nakamura defeated John Cena at 19:44
Nakamura celebrated after the match. Cena shook his hand, and Nakamura clearly mouthed I’m Sorry to him in the exchange. Jinder Mahal was shown looking down on the match from his luxury box. The celebration was interrupted by Baron Corbin assaulting Shinsuke Nakamura with his briefcase. John Cena ran down and made the save and they spilled to the floor. Corbin set up the announce table and moved the stairs over to attempt to put Cena through the table, but Cena reversed and put him through with an AA. He then shook Nakamura’s hand again after the fact.
My Take: Cena looked to be quite stiff after the match. He wasn’t moving his neck and was clearly in some pain, despite finishing the match and the post match activities. I sincerely hope he’s ok and a stiff neck is the worst of it, as that suplex landing was brutal and could have led to a concussion or a neck injury, especially for someone of Cena’s size and bulk. I’m guessing we see Cena vs. Corbin at Summerslam, provided Cena isn’t hurt, along with the other matches announced and teased tonight. Given the players on the table, this feels a little weak. Maybe they are saving the stronger feuds for WrestleMania, but this certainly isn’t the best and brightest Smackdown has to offer. Nakamura vs. Jinder Mahal seems to cut the legs out from under Mahal’s character, who is really laser focused on being condescended to by Americans. Cena and Corbin could be a lot of fun from a promo standpoint, but I’m not sure how they’re styles will mesh in the ring. It has the potential to be a bit clunky. Hopefully this will all end up better than I’m imagining, but that certainly wasn’t the case at Battleground.
The new edition of the Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast with Jason Powell features Ricky Starks on his NWA run, doing enhancement work for WWE, leaving NOLA due to Hurricane Katrina, the January 24 NWA Hard Times PPV on FITE.TV, his relationship with Nick Aldis, and much more...